Just down the hill from the Nye County ghost town of Rhyolite, something is moving where there was no movement before.
Pushed by the wind, the spinning steel arms of a new sculpture sweep through the dry air like the hands of a malfunctioning clock.
The piece by Southern Nevada artist David Berg is the first kinetic addition to an unusual -- but until now, static -- sculpture collection started more than a quarter century ago by a quirky bunch of prominent European artists.
Berg and a team of volunteers erected his 21-foot-tall steel-pipe creation on Saturday . It is the first new work in four years -- and just the third ever -- to be added at the Goldwell Open Air Museum, about 4 miles west of Beatty and 115 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The sculpture has three arms shaped like crutches that rotate independently of each other.
"It moves in the slightest breeze, with elements that point in any given direction at any given time," Berg said. "And after vast amounts of movement and energy, absolutely nothing is accomplished."
He calls it "Politician's Compass."
Las Vegas artist Suzanne Hackett-Morgan, who serves as Goldwell's executive director, said the museum receives several suggestions and submissions each year, but the board only considers new work that fits with the spirit of the small collection.
"We knew when it was right," she said of Berg's work. "Every piece out there interacts with the landscape, and that's what this piece does."
Early on, though, Hackett-Morgan took some convincing. When she first heard Berg's idea she worried it might come apart in the wind or injure visitors with its rotating lengths of steel pipe.
But Berg has been testing his design for several years at his home in Mountain Springs, the small community at the mile-high pass between Las Vegas and Pahrump. He insists it can handle the strongest wind gusts.
The safety issue, meanwhile, was solved by mounting the sculpture high enough to keep its moving parts out of reach of even the tallest visitor. "You'd have to be Yao Ming" to have any reason to worry, Hackett-Morgan said, putting the 7-foot-6-inch Houston Rockets basketball player on notice.
'PECULIAR AND MYSTERIOUS'
Belgian artist Albert Szukalski launched what would become the Goldwell Open Air Museum in 1984, when he chose the site for his life-size reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" with hollow, ghostly figures in place of Jesus and his apostles.
Other prominent Belgian artists later added their own creations, including a rusted-steel silhouette of a prospector and a penguin and a two-story nude woman rendered in cinder blocks so she resembles a voluptuous set of giant Lego bricks.
Access to the collection remains free and open, and no signs are posted bearing the names of the pieces or their artists.
Hackett-Morgan said Szukalski, who died in 2000, hoped people would stumble across the sculptures by accident and experience them without completely understanding what they were. "Albert wanted it to be peculiar and mysterious," she said.
The dawn of the Information Age has changed things a bit. Though accidental visits still occur, the museum has developed an international following -- and become a modest destination in itself -- thanks to the Internet.
The Goldwell Open Air Museum now features an artist-in-residence program and a small visitor center, where people can find out more about the sculptures and browse through changing exhibitions of two-dimensional work.
Berg's "Compass" fits in so perfectly at Goldwell because it plays off two of the landscape's strongest elements: the wind and the vast desert sky.
Hackett-Morgan said the movements of the new sculpture are mesmerizing. She pictures visitors watching it spin and change shape while they sit on the visitor center porch or on the mosaic-and-concrete couch sculpture called "Sit Here!"
"It will be like Death Valley TV," she said.
Berg said he is pleased to be a part of a collection he has long admired in a place that is surprisingly well-suited for art appreciation.
The place benefits from "an enormous vista" and few distractions such as cellphones, which generally don't work there, he said. "That's what's so great about Goldwell. It leaves the viewer and the landscape pretty much to themselves."
Berg grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. He moved to Nevada in the early 1980s, drawn by the West and its wide-open spaces.
He said he has been sculpting in some manner or another for more than 50 years.
"I went to doing pieces that move when I realized how hard it is to get someone to walk all the way around a piece and see it from all sides," he said.
The 69-year-old hopes his "Compass" will stand the test of time and the elements.
"I'd certainly like it to outlast me," he said.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350.